The novel Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, tells a story set in Africa right before European contact. The story is about an Igbo man named Okonkwo, who is highly regarded within his village of Umuofio. Achebe introduces us to the brutality, violence, and tragedy, which comprise the lives of the characters. The superstitions, brutal customs, and the deep fear of the wrath of their ancestors are a product of the hardship, which they endure.
From a typical Westerners point of view, the actions and traditions of Okonkwo and his fellow villagers may seem barbaric. But what Achebe does within the story is allow us to get an in depth look at the characters within the story, through their behaviors, thoughts, and flashbacks. As you begin to become more familiar with the characters, it becomes somewhat difficult to judge them from a western perspective. In the story Okonkwo’s sense of duty and honor are heavily depicted in his actions and thoughts. This I found myself commending him on, for even when the beliefs of his kinsmen faltered his never swayed, he stayed loyal to his beliefs to the very end.
The story Okonkwo accidently kills one of his fellow tribes men, and is sent into exile. Upon his return, he finds his village to now also be inhabited by the Europeans, who have imposed their religion and laws on to his people. For Okonkwo, who is a man of pride and honor, to be belittled and humiliated by these Europeans, he finds himself feeling powerless. When this happens Okonkwo finds his world to be falling apart.
Achebe does a wonderful job of letting us get to know the village, its customs, and some of the key characters within the book. He does this with his un biased writing, allowing the reader to form his or her own opinions. In today’s world where most countries, cities or neighborhoods, are melting pots of different cultures, this book shows us what happens when cultures clash. This book also lets us get an inside look on what life was like in many areas affected by colonialism in Africa, before the Europeans came. And it shows us what it means to have the beliefs, culture, and customs, which make you who you are, stripped away from you. When everything around you that you’ve been familiar with all your life, begins to fall apart right in front of your eyes.